Horton Journal of Canadian History ~ Papers
The Dieppe Raid
A young bride awaits the return of her truly beloved. A little boy eagerly waits for his daddy to come home. For the families of the 907 Canadians who died on the beaches of Dieppe, their waiting ended with dreaded news of defeat and death. There were people with real lives behind the statistics of Operation Jubilee. People who did not really care if The Raid at Dieppe would be studied for techniques. People who trusted in Canada to know what was best for their, our country. People who were not altogether unlike yourself. The casualties of the 1942 Raid on Dieppe were ineffectually massacred because of the poor execution of a plan and miscommunication. ("The Valour and the Horror In Desperate Battle Normandy 1944")
Operation Jubilee was supposed to cause the Germans to fear a western attack by the Allied forces. It was designed to coerce the Germans to fortify their Channel defenses. The situation faced by the Allied forces in the spring of 1942 looked bleak. Russia had essentially been lost, the British had been forced out of North Africa and forces in Western Europe had to fight the Germans across the English Channel. Operation Jubilee was created with the goal of piloting techniques and equipment that could be used in a later, larger scale attack. It was decided that Canadians would be the main assault force. ("Dieppe". www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/dieppe)
On August 19th, 1942, the raid on the picturesque French port of Dieppe took place. The attack was planned to take place from five different locations, over approximately sixteen kilometres of French coastline. Canadians were responsible for the main raid on the town of Dieppe and also for raids at Pourville to the west and Puys to the east. British troops were responsible for the remaining coastal batteries at Berneval and Varengeville. While the forces were approaching they encountered an unexpected German convoy. Although the convoy was small, the noise from the fighting alerted the coastal forces. This particularly affected Berneval and Puys. The royal Regiment of Canada at Puys was at a loss, their attack depended on darkness and surprise, both luxuries they were not granted. The beach at Puys was extremely narrow and German troops were perched in the cliffs above. The troops who arrived in growing day light, were attacked by alerted German soldiers boasting machine guns. The remaining troops, who were trapped on the beach by mortar and machine gun fire, were forced to surrender. 220 of those men who landed died. This was the worst toll suffered by a Canadian battalion in one day throughout the entire war. Not only was the attack at Puys a disaster in itself, it allowed the Germans to move east and prepare for frontal attack at the Beaches of Dieppe. ("The Dieppe Raid 19 August 1942")
The British had limited success to the west of Dieppe at Varengeville. They were able to maintain the key element of surprise. The No. 4 Commando operation went smoothly and as planned, destroying the guns in the battery and withdrawing without harm. ("Dieppe". www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/dieppe)
The Canadians at Pourville also were able to maximise the effect of their attack with the element of surprise. As they moved towards Dieppe across the river Scie the resistance grew. The troops were eventually forced to stop. During the withdrawal, because of the Germans strategic positioning both to the east and on the elevated land to the west, many Canadian soldiers were injured. The landing craft braved the intensity of the battle to help the two units reunite. This was not enough. The troops were forced to surrender after running out of ammunition. ("The Dieppe Raid 19 August 1942")
The frontal attack at Dieppe was planned to take place one half hour after the first four raids. By the time of the attack, the Germans were prepared. They had secured holdings in cliff tops and ensconced themselves in buildings with a view of the promenade. All the Germans had to do was sit and wait for the Canadians to arrive. Upon their arrival the troops were met with machine-gun fire. The loss of manpower was huge. When one small group of soldiers made it to the town a misleading message that the Canadians were making headway was delivered to the reserve battalion, Les Fusiliers Mont Royal. The battalion was sent in and met the same fate as their predecessors: extreme enemy fire. ("Dieppe". Http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/goldens/diep.htm")
Bad luck continued. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry were involved in violent street fighting to the west of Dieppe. The Calgary Regiment was met by a blazing fire because they were too late to support their infantry and an incredible air battle began because of the raid. The Royal Air Force lost 106 aircraft that day.
Hours after the raid began, Operation Jubilee was over and the questions began to pour in and accusations were made. Was the raid on Dieppe a useful lesson that would serve to aid allied forces on D-day or a "useless slaughter"? ( "Dieppe". www.vac-acc.gc/general/sb.cfm?source=history/secondWar/dieppe/dieppe2/raid)
The raid on Dieppe was scrutinised by those responsible for planning the Allied attack on D-Day. There are those who claim that the Canadians who gave their lives on the beaches near Dieppe subsequently lowered the death rate on D-Day by providing a trial run for attacking the enemy held French coast. The raid on Dieppe provided valuable lessons about what would and would not work against the German army.
But did close to one thousand Canadians need to die to draw up a future plan of attack? Is it an insult to Canadians to be sent out as the guinea pigs of the Allied force? Allied forces made no headway off the coast of France. The battle was horribly planned, and the execution was even worse. Although unexpected problems cannot always be foreseen, extreme care should have been taken to examine every possible variable that could have affected the implementation of the raid. A lack of communication interfered with the way the raid was carried out. Comfort for families of the 3, 367 casualties of the Raid of Dieppe is not easily found in the fact that the Raid could be studied for military techniques. It would be hard to console a mourning mother that her sons death was not in vain; au contraire, fire support and tactics would be improved from studying the Operation. Learning what works and what does not work is not worth the lives of 907 Canadians, whose deaths can easily be viewed as unnecessary and useless. Even if the Allies made progress in Dieppe the slaughter could at the very least be seen as constructive. But they did not make progress that day. ("Harry Palmer Gallery Dieppe Raid Gallery")
The Raid on Dieppe was plagued by mistakes. Yes, one can learn from a mistake, but that does not make them any less tragic. Operation Jubilee was a crucial tool used in the preparation of D-Day. For the Canadians who witnessed this seemingly useless destruction of their forces, a certain degree of trust must have been lost for the cause they had dedicated themselves to. Canadians devoted themselves to the cause of World War Two. Whether their support was demonstrated through fighting oversees, caring for victims or changing their lifestyle to preserve resources, all Canadians felt the effects of the war. All Canadians also felt the loss at the Raid of Dieppe. The courage and bravery of Canadian casualties of Operation Jubilee deserves to be remembered. To remember the Raid of Dieppe as anything but disastrous is idealistic. Lives were claimed because of bad planning and unforeseen difficulties, two variables that could have been essentially controlled. Perhaps with better preparation and more careful planning someones father and someones son would have been able to come home.
"Harry Palmer Raid Gallery". http://www.harrypalmergallery.ab.ca/galsdieppe/nissenthal.htm
"The Dieppe Raid August 1942". http://www.cfc.dnd.ca/dieppemap2.GIF
"The Raid on Dieppe". www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/dieppe/dieppe2/raid
"The Valour and the Horror In desperate Battle Bormandy 1944."http://www.valourandhorror.com/DB/BACK/Dieppe.htm
Back to Main Page